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Fantasy Baseball Draft Sleepers: J.P. Crawford, DJ LeMahieu, Brendan Donovan (2024)

Fantasy Baseball Draft Sleepers: J.P. Crawford, DJ LeMahieu, Brendan Donovan (2024)

For the runs category, power and speed factor into the equation. Those attributes and the ability to get on base often are key to a player’s ability to rack up runs for fantasy managers. A player getting ample opportunities to use those skills is also key to tackling the category. No other place in the lineup lends itself to that more than the leadoff spot.

Each player below fit the mold described above to varying degrees. Each comes with little to virtually zero draft risk, according to current consensus average draft position (ADP) trends around the fantasy baseball landscape.

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2024 Sleepers for Runs

J.P. Crawford (SS – SEA)

It may seem like a bit of a stretch to label J.P. Crawford a “sleeper” coming off a career year but the fantasy world seems to not be fully buying it given his ADP puts him in the later rounds of most drafts. That presents a real opportunity.

Crawford didn’t come flying out of the gate last year. Over the first several weeks of the season, he was regularly lining up at the bottom of the Mariners’ batting order, often in the nine hole. Through his first 34 games of the season, Crawford was hitting just .240 with one homer. However, there was one eye-catching aspect of his offensive profile: An 18% walk rate that resulted in a .378 OBP. That led Seattle manager Scott Servais to make what looked like a genius move by season’s end, placing Crawford in the leadoff spot on May 10.

Crawford immediately took off, seizing the leadoff role for good and producing numbers never seen from him since debuting in the bigs back in 2017. Across 510 plate appearances from that point forward, Crawford turned in a .272/.380/.461 slash line with 18 homers, 27 doubles and, more importantly, for the purposes of this article, 77 runs scored. The 29-year-old will be back setting the table for Julio Rodriguez and company this year. A 100-run season is certainly in the cards after Crawford just missed that mark in 2023.

DJ LeMahieu (1B, 2B, 3B – NYY)

Rumor has it Yankees manager Aaron Boone would prefer using DJ LeMahieu as the club’s regular leadoff man this year. If that happens, the 35-year-old veteran would be in prime position to score a ton of runs in front of offensive forces such as Juan Soto and Aaron Judge. LeMahieu has tailed off the past few years and was well under career norms in 2023.

Despite hitting a career-low .243 across 136 games for the Yanks last season, LeMahieu did maintain solid walk (10.7%) and hard-hit rates (43.0%). The most glaring issue for LeMahieu was a 22.2 K% compared to his previous lifetime mark of 14.5%. If he can bring those whiffs back down — a long track record suggests he can — LeMahieu could return nice fantasy value, particularly in the run-scoring department, at little risk.

Brendan Donovan (1B, 2B, OF – STL)

Brendan Donovan was putting together a solid year before an elbow injury ended his second MLB season on July 29. Through 95 games in 2023, he was hitting .284 with a .365 OBP and 11 homers. His power was up from his rookie season, at the expense of some of his walk rate. Donovan improved on his contact despite adding some aggressiveness at the plate.

More than seven months removed from surgery, Donovan is ready to roll for the Cardinals once again. He should often set up shop at or near the top of the batting order this year, at least against right-handed pitchers. A career .283 hitter with a .381 OBP over more than 800 MLB plate appearances, Donovan should be a steady source of runs for a St. Louis lineup focused on a rebound in 2024.

Expert Fantasy Baseball Draft Advice


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Nate Miller is a featured writer at FantasyPros and a 9-year veteran of the fantasy sports industry. For more from Nate, check out his archive and follow him on Twitter @Miller_RotoDad.

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